Naturally, hoteliers in Puerto Rico have chocked this difficulty up to unnecessary nuisances like US labor laws – which force poor CEOs to pay employees a $7.30 minimum wage, compared to about $60/week in DR – while bad publicity tied to the recent Zika panic plummeted numbers even lower. And while it’s true that cheaper operational costs on neighboring islands give a leg up in terms of pricing, the answer to Puerto Rico’s tourism woes probably isn’t plunging hospitality workers even deeper into poverty.
But little by little, folks on the island are finding new, creative ways to shore up an industry that accounts for up to 6 percent of the struggling economy’s GDP – focusing more on what makes Puerto Rico unique, and less on generic resort tourism. To that end, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company has dug back into Puerto Rico’s indigenous Taíno past to create the “Ruta Taína” – a tour package that traverses the center of the island north to south, and hits some of the island’s most important archeological sites along the way.
Billing the island as “the most important indigenous tourism destination in the Caribbean,” the tour takes advantage of the pioneering archeological excavation and preservation work carried out by the late Dr. Ricardo Alegría. Beginning in the northern coastal town of Arecibo, the Ruta Taína takes adventuresome tourists from the Cueva del Indio, through iconic petroglyphs scattered throughout towns like Aibonito and Jayuya, to indigenous-themed museums, and finally to Ponce’s Tibes ceremonial center.